Give him Papa burgers, root beer, poutine and whistle dogs for life at the Vernon A&W stores.
They may as well make Scott Steckly an honourary A&W lifetime gift card after he made history in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Cruisin’ The Dub 300 in front of 6,000-plus fans Saturday night at the MotoPlex Speedway and Event Park.
Steckly, 39, of Milverton, Ont., became the first driver in the five-year history of the The Dub 300 to win multiple times at the half-mile tri-oval after winning here last summer with a late race push past D.J. Kennington. Steckly, who posted the fastest qualifying time of 18.3 seconds, also has three runner-up placings in Vernon.
Steckly again finished just ahead of Kennington, holding off the pack in a 10-lap sprint to the finish to claim his 10th career victory on the tour and first since he drove his #22 Canadian Tire/MotoMaster Dodge to Victory Lane in the season opener at Mosport Speedway in May.
The race, which lasted two hours and 19 minutes, featured a dozen yellow caution flags, mainly due to cars spinning out on the turns. The race lead exchanged hands eight times among three drivers.
Kennington, driving a #17 Castrol Edge Dodge, has top-five runs in all his MotoPlex starts. He held the lead lap for 135 laps, tops on the warm night, ending up 7/10ths of a second back of Steckly.
“The car wasn’t the best at the beginning. That’s for sure,” said Steckly, who pocketed $10,500. “We had adjustability built into the car and that’s what you have to have here.”
Steckly gambled and won on a tire strategy that differed from the bulk of the field. By lap 180, he had already replaced all four tires which was the limit for the night.
“We went into the race looking to wait until lap 220 or so, but the way the cautions were falling, we thought we could lap a bunch of guys on a long green-flag run,” said Steckly. “My crew does an awesome job every week. They’re the best in the business.”
Kennington, the defending Series champion who turned 34 last week, was semi excited about his race which netted him $7,000.
“Second place is a good night, but it’s sure not what we wanted,” said the dejected driver from St. Thomas, Ont. “The car took about 10 laps or so to get going, so those short runs there at the end really hurt us. On the longer runs I was able to run him down a little. We’ll take it (second) and take off for Saskatoon (Velocity Prairie Thunder race tonight).”
Kerry Micks of Mount Albert, Ont., proving that age 50 is the new 40, guided his #02 Dickies/Beyond Digital Imaging Ford Fusion to third place and $5,000.
Moments after he climbed out of his car, he was approached by an angry 23-year-old J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge, who steered the #64 Equipment Express/Shick Chevrolet.
NASCAR officials intervened before any serious carnage could be done.
“Me and J.R. touched (on turn 4),” said Micks. “He’s hit me a few times this year and I’ve hit him a few times. Television doesn’t lie. J.R. got loose and I touched him.”
Micks was thrilled to earn a sweet paycheque in the longest dash of the Series season – 150 miles.
“It feels great,” said Micks. “That’s what NASCAR is all about. You gotta put on a good show and we got a podium. “Third place is a good run tonight, but we’re going to have this car just right real soon.”
Ron Beauchamp Jr., of Windsor, in the #60 Mopar/Mobil 1 Dodge, and Mark Dilley of Barrie, Ont. in the #9 Rheem/Exide Dodge, completed the top-five.
Don Thomson Jr., of Hamilton led the next group in sixth with Brampton’s Pete Shepherd III seventh and Fitzpatrick eighth. Nathan Weenk of Lethbridge and Jim White of Kamloops completed the top-10.
Sara Cornett-Ching of Penticton, making her series debut, settled for 14th place in a field of 21.
The 20-year-old hung in there with the big boys until until lap 280 when she struck the back straightaway wall and cut down two right-side tires.
She made a pit stop and re-entered the race two laps down in the #25 A&W Cruisin’ For A Cause Chevrolet she borrowed from Jason White of Kamloops.
Cornett-Ching retired with eight laps remaining due to suspension damage.
Steckly increased his points standings lead on Kennington to 97 points after bringing a 92-point advantage into the night. Fitzpatrick remains in third followed by Thomson and Micks.
The A&W Cruisin’ The Dub 300 will be telecast on TSN at 11 a.m. PT this Saturday.
PIT STOPS: A&W T-shirts and stuffies were tossed into the crowd during breaks in the action…The 50-50 jackpot of $3,700 was won by a local roofer…Steckly hit 98 miles an hour in qualifying, while the average speed in the race was just under 65 MPH…Shepherd held the lead for 45 laps…The Coca-Cola Move of the Race Award went to Beauchamp, while the Rookie of the Week honour was given to Weenk…Steckly leads Kennington by 57 points in the Series standings battle.